Exciting times, it’s the first instalment of Music Monday! As a general rule, I’ll chat about books, films and gigs as and when I’ve read/seen/attended them (the Goodreads panel on the sidebar will give an idea about which books might be coming up next), but every Monday from now on I’ll be talking about my album of the week. It might be a new release, an old classic, or tied into a particular anniversary – basically, I’ll just be raiding my CD collection each week and seeing what I can come up with.
I’m kicking off with the brand spanking new album from Aerosmith, Music From Another Dimension! It’s their first studio album since 2004’s covers album Honkin’ On Bobo, but the first time they’ve released all new material since Just Push Play in 2001. Needless to say, eleven years is a long time to wait, and after a series of squabbles and various side projects within the band, I’m sure many fans were unsure as to whether a new album would ever arrive. Understandably, there was an awful lot of hype and expectation surrounding the release of Music From Another Dimension!, and I think it’s fair to say that the album has delivered.
Personally, I think this album is a grower. That’s not to say that I didn’t like it when I first heard it, but every time I’ve listened to it since I’ve noticed something new. It’s recognisably Aerosmith, right from the get-go, and there are hints and reminders of previous hits both in the general sound and in the lyrics – Luv XXX reminds me a bit of Love in an Elevator, there’s something Walk This Way-ish in Beautiful, at times What Could Have Been Love has vague suggestions of Crazy in the melody, and both Street Jesus and Legendary Child remind me a bit of Sweet Emotion, although there’s also an echo of Toys in the Attic in Street Jesus.
The one thing that strikes me most about this album is the prominence of ballads. I counted six songs that I would class as ballads in total: Tell Me, What Could Have Been Love, Can’t Stop Lovin’ You (a duet with Carrie Underwood), We All Fall Down, Closer and, finally, Another Last Goodbye. Aerosmith are quite the powerhouse when it comes to power ballads, and I’ve always thought it’s something they do best because they really show off Steven Tyler’s vocal range and abilities. Forget I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing (although a great one to belt out at karaoke), for me Cryin’ is not only their best power ballad by far, but is also one of the best rock power ballads full stop. But all of the new ballads seem a bit understated in comparison, and never really build in the same way as Cryin’ or I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing, with their big dramatic key changes and massive climaxes. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, it just wasn’t what I expected. You can see what I mean if you compare the video for Cryin’ with the newly released video for What Could Have Been Love.
I think it’s the faster-paced, typical stomping Aerosmith tracks that work the best though. Street Jesus in particular will be a huge crowd pleaser and I can imagine it going down well in a stadium, while Lover Alot seems the best suited to Steven’s voice and, again, seems to be going down pretty well on the radio. Luv XXX and Oh Yeah seem to be written with stadium crowds in mind. They’re so easy to sing along to, and I can see an audience getting a kick out of the call and response. Out Go the Lights is my personal favourite though, it’s got such a funky beat with fab bursts of brass and a good old blast on the faithful harmonica. It does seem to get a bit carried away though – I love an ooh and aah as much as the next person, but three minutes of oohs and aahs over some fancy guitar twiddling is a little excessive, fun though it was, and makes it the longest track at nearly 7 minutes. Joe’s done a good job on the guitar, as always, and the riff on Street Jesus has got such a groove to it that you can’t help but have a little boogie (and if there’s one I thing I love more than oohs and aahs, it’s a boogie!)
All in all, I really like this album, but there are a couple of things about it which are a little bit odd to me. It begins and ends with a strange echoey voice talking about perceptions of reality. I know the album’s called Music From Another Dimension!, but I’m not a fan of the voice and I thought it rambled on a bit too long. The track Freedom Fighter baffles me a little as well, I think it’s because it’s Joe Perry singing and I’m constantly distracted by the fact that he really sounds like Gene Simmons to me, and I must admit that spoils it for me a little. He also sings the lead on Something, but I think I’d rather he left the vocals to Steven Tyler. But on the plus side, the sleeve notes (complete with Slash’s fab illustration of the band, which he drew when he was 13!) have informed me that Johnny Depp sings backing vocals on Freedom Fighter, and that fun fact definitely redeems the track a little.
I predict great things for this album. So far the general reaction seems to be overwhelmingly positive, and I think it’ll keep on getting good press. So far, four singles have been released: Legendary Child and Lover Alot have reached numbers 17 and 34 respectively on the US rock chart, while What Could Have Been Love and Can’t Stop Lovin’ You have so far failed to chart. But charts generally aren’t that indicative of great rock music anymore anyway, and it’s Street Jesus that everyone seems to be raving about (for good reason, it’s one hell of a tune!) If anything though, I think the thing that’s amazed me most is Steven Tyler’s ability (despite being 64!) to still belt out some cracking vocals and hit some stratospheric notes. Impressive stuff.
Finally, if you fancy another taster, check out the hilariously intro-ed video for Legendary Child.
Track list: 01) Luv XXX, 02) Oh yeah, 03) Beautiful, 04)Tell Me, 05) Out Go the Lights, 06) Legendary Child, 07) What Could Have Been Love, 08) Street Jesus, 09) Can’t Stop Lovin’ You (with Carrie Underwood), 10) Lover Alot, 11) We All Fall Down, 12) Freedom Fighter, 13) Closer, 14) Something, 15) Another Last Goodbye.
Be sure to check back next week for another installment of Music Monday!